RAF Gibraltar

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RAF Gibraltar
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
RAF Gibraltar crest.png
LXGB is located in Gibraltar
LXGB
LXGB
Shown within Gibraltar
Coordinates 36°08′58″N 005°20′50″W / 36.14944°N 5.34722°W / 36.14944; -5.34722Coordinates: 36°08′58″N 005°20′50″W / 36.14944°N 5.34722°W / 36.14944; -5.34722
Type Royal Air Force station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Site history
Built 1942 (1942)
In use 1942-Present
Battles/wars Second World War: Operation Torch
Falklands War
Gulf War
Balkans
Sierra Leone
Garrison information
Current
commander
Wg Cdr James Holland RAF
Airfield information
Elevation 3 metres (10 ft) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
09/27 1,828 metres (5,997 ft) Asphalt

Royal Air Force Gibraltar or more simply RAF Gibraltar, also formerly known as North Front, is a Royal Air Force station on Gibraltar. No military aircraft are currently stationed there, but RAF, Commonwealth and aircraft of other NATO nations will periodically arrive for transient stopovers, exercises, or other temporary duty. Administered by British Forces Gibraltar, the station is a joint civil-military facility that also functions as the Rock's civilian airport – Gibraltar Airport, with the civilian airport's passenger terminal building and apron facilities located on the north side of the runway while the apron and hangar of RAF Gibraltar are located on the south side of the runway.

History[edit]

A Royal Naval Air Service seaplane base was opened at Gibraltar during the First World War.[1]

The airport was constructed during World War II when Gibraltar was an important naval base for the British. Originally opened in 1939, it was only an emergency airfield for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. However, the runway was later extended by reclaiming some land from the Bay of Gibraltar using rock blasted from the Rock of Gibraltar while carrying out works on military tunnels. This last major extension of the runway allowed larger aircraft to land at Gibraltar. At this time the airfield completely obliterated the former Gibraltar horse racing track. RAF North Front opened in 1942 and RAF New Camp opened around the same time.

The airfield played a major part in Operation Torch, the Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa (French colonial possessions in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco) during the war.

Following the major reorganization of the Allied air forces at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, RAF Gibraltar became a major sub-command of the Mediterranean Air Command under Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder in February 1943.

The station officially became "RAF Gibraltar" in 1966.

Units stationed[edit]

Order of Battle, July 10, 1943[2]
RAF Units Aircraft
No. 48 Squadron Lockheed Hudson
No. 179 Squadron Vickers Wellington
No. 202 Squadron Consolidated Catalina
No. 210 Squadron Catalina
No. 233 Squadron Hudson
No. 248 Squadron Detachment Bristol Beaufighter
No. 544 Squadron Detachment Supermarine Spitfire
No. 813 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm Fairey Swordfish
No. 1403 (Meteorological) Flight Handley Page Hampden, Gloster Gladiator

Anti-submarine warfare was a major priority of RAF Gibraltar during World War II and some of their aircraft were equipped with special detectors to locate German U-boats in the relatively shallow waters around Gibraltar. United States Navy Fleet Air Wing 15 based at Port Lyautey[3] coordinated its antisubmarine warfare operations with RAF Gibraltar and assigned a ZP-14 Squadron blimp pilot/liaison officer to Gibraltar.[4]

On 18 July 1944 the Commander of RAF Gibraltar, Air Vice-Marshal Alick Stevens, was introduced to the antisubmarine technology of a USN K-ship when ZP-14 Commander Emmett J. Sullivan took him for a short blimp ride. The Goodyear K-112 was the first K-ship to land in Europe earlier the same day.

The RAF camp also hosted a number of small British Army units who performed various support roles from the camp over the years. There was 8 Surveillance Troop Royal Artillery who were responsible for (darkness hours) maritime radar security of the Rock during the border closure throughout the 70's and 80's. In addition to this there was also a Royal Engineer's Postal unit and a number of resident Infantry Battalion dog handlers - who were employed to supplement the RAF Police Dog Handling section. The accommodation block also provided facilities for a few members of the Royal Signals, WRAC and short stay transient visitors plus the occasional Royal Navy's Duty Frigate helicopter ground crews. The camp is now the Regimental Headquarters for the Royal Gibraltar Regiment - a unit of the British Army - consisting of both regulars and reservists and responsible for the local defense of the territory,

Partial view of RAF Gibraltar's west - east (Left to Right) orientation of the runway from the rock, with La Linea's harbour visible in the background. The Border is to the Middle-Right side of the photo just below the green band.

The airfield, which today is used mainly for civil flights, is unusual in that the main access road from Gibraltar to Spain crosses the airfield, necessitating the road to be closed whenever aircraft movements are in progress. When the RAF holds an exercise, this causes significant disruption to traffic flow. RAF Gibraltar used to have an Avro Vulcan K2 as a gate guard, but this was later scrapped due to its deterioration as a result of the high salt content in Gibraltar's atmosphere.

On 4 February 2011, The new RAF headquarters in Gibraltar was officially opened by The Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.

'The Jaguar Building' is the result of several years of planning and follows the enhancement of transport links with Spain, which will include a tunnel at the eastern end of the runway. The latter however has been put on hold by the current administration of Gibraltar.

The old RAF site was needed for a new air terminal, so the Gibraltar Government agreed to pay for the new Headquarters and it was the perfect opportunity to put all sections under one roof.

Commanding officers[edit]

  • Air Vice-Marshal Sturley Simpson - AOC, AHQ Gibraltar December 1941 to Feb 1944
  • Air Vice Marshal William Elliot - AOC, RAF Gibraltar Feb 1944 to June 1944
  • Air Vice Marshal Alick Stevens - AOC, RAF Gibraltar June 1944 - August 1945

Gibraltar squadrons[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Panoramic view[edit]

Panoramic photograph of RAF Gibraltar/Gibraltar Airport.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]